When are horror movie characters going to learn that taunting evil spirits only causes trouble? For the sake of horror movies, probably never, as Dead Before Dawn 3D continues the tradition of gathering a group of non-believing high schoolers and thrusting them into a cursed scenario. At least writer Tim Doiron and director April Mullen attempted to have fun with the genre, literally making their own horror curse off the top of their head. Know what a “Zemon” is? Ever hear of a horror monster that attacks by giving you hickies? Want to see a hot cheerleader make out with the undead? No? Too bad.
Casper Galloway (Devon Bostick) is your typical nerdy teen. His family owns a store full of terrifying artifacts called The Occult Barn, he watched his father die at this shop after being possessed by a demon, and he may have just cursed him and his friends for eternity – you know, typical high school bullshit. Oh yeah, getting to that whole cult thing, while covering for his grandfather (Christopher Lloyd) at The Occult Barn, he accidentally unleashes an evil spirit from his skull-capped urn while trying to show his friends. They don’t believe his warnings of being cursed, so they jokingly make up their own curse. According to them, if they were cursed, it would go a little something like this: If you make eye contact with someone, they immediately kill themselves and come back to life as a half zombie/half demon that gives its victims hickies. If you get a hickie, you immediately want to kill yourself as well and come back as a “Zemon,” but you can turn “Zemons” into your own personal slaves if you French kiss them. Oh, and of course if you don’t break the curse by dawn, you’re stuck with it for eternity. Wouldn’t that be a crazy curse if it was true?! Yeah, Casper and his friends find out just how crazy of a curse they accidentally created, learning there’s nothing funny about pissing off an evil force freed from captivity.
As you can kind of tell by the description, Dead Before Dawn 3D is a straight horror comedy, and even with that description, I hesitate including the word horror. I mean, we’re talking about “Zemons” that kiss you to death – not zombies that are biting your skin and tearing your flesh. There are a few bloody deaths as humans off themselves because of some cursed eye contact, but don’t expect the actual “Zemons” to participate in any gruesome scenes when getting violent with our cast. The horror is sacrificed for laughs long before it even has a chance to present itself, as Doiron’s script parodies the horror genre instead of utilizing it. While not as bad as those trashy, horrid excuses for movies like Stan Helsing or the rest, there is a hint of unwanted and forced jokes that deter from what could have been a fun and lively script.
My biggest problem with the comedic aspect has to be its forced nature though, as Dead Before Dawn 3D tries to mirror those self-aware horror gems that have made us laugh through obvious foreshadowing and cheeky inside jokes, but Doiron’s script lacks subtlety, clever incorporation, and the necessary balance that lets such humor flourish. If you like being beaten over the head with jokes to the point where they’re practically being yelled directly in your face, then you probably shouldn’t have a problem here. For the rest of us who don’t like everything spelled out as if we’re in kindergarten again though, you’ll find Dead Before Dawn 3D‘s all-too-obvious humor an immediate turnoff. If you’ve got your checklist out, that’s an X through “Horror” and an X through “Comedy” as well – not a great showing.
Our cast is fun enough for a group of goofball stereotypes trying to survive a “Zemon” curse, but again, because of Dead Before Dawn 3D‘s tone, their over-the-top portrayals blur the line between goofy and annoying. Stand out performances by writer Tim Doiron as a mug-selling stoner and Brittany Allen as the airy cheerleader lead the pack and offer moments of genuine genre comedy, especially from the ditzy Allen who can be found doing nothing but sexy poses as she’s fighting. It’s no doubt these young actors are having a ton of fun and do their best to play around with Doiron’s script, but with such unabashedly overbearing material, it’s hard for them not to eventually drift into absurdity. Kudos on getting Christopher Lloyd involved though, who obviously had to quote Back To The Future at least one. It’s like a rule for him, right?
Dead Before Dawn 3D is a drab comedy wearing a spooky mask and unjustly calling itself a horror comedy, thinking a little too highly of its forceful nature and weak genre parodies. It starts out creatively goofy and innocently enough, but lost amdist the puckered up “Zemons” and cartoonishly outlandish characters is any sense of true entertainment. You’ll laugh, there’s no doubt, but you’ll be laughing at stupidity. What we have here is a film with distinct style, a style we believe might actually carry solidly through Mullen’s film, but also a film that tries too hard.
You know that class-clown that used to try and make everything into a joke, and you’d eventually start rolling your eyes at them? That’s exactly what Dead Before Dawn 3D feels like.